Washington-Slagbaai National Park

National Park in North End

Image by Gail Johnson Shutterstock

Comprising almost 20% of the island's area, this vast, desert landscape is a fantastic place to explore on foot, by bike or by vehicle (preferably a 4WD). Stop at the visitors center, at the entrance, to pick up a map and check out exhibits on the park's ecology and history. From here, two driving routes and two hiking trails show off the park's diversity, including salt ponds, seascapes, remote beaches, mangroves, volcanic hills and amazing desert vistas. And cacti, lots of cacti.

The two circular driving routes range from 24km to 34km and have birding stops, dive sites and hidden beaches (many ideal for swimming and snorkeling) along the way. Roads are rough, but well worth the effort. Allow about two hours.

When hiking, it's best to get an early start. The 1½-hour Lagadishi loop takes you past ancient stone walls, a blowhole along the rugged coast, and a salt pan with congregating flamingos. The more difficult, two-hour Kasikunda climbing trail ascends a challenging path to the top of a hill for sweeping views.

The park entrance is at the end of a good 4km concrete road from Rincon. At the entrance, you'll find a restrooms and a small museum. Be sure to bring plenty of water.